GOP pivots to blast tax-and-spend Biden in bid to 'reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility'

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While President Biden pushes Congress to enact his agenda that could total upward of $6 trillion, a massive government spending binge, congressional Republicans are saying they plan to "reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility" as the national debt soars above $28 trillion.

The president's spending proposals, including his already-enacted American Recovery Plan and pending American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, come on the heels of trillions of dollars spent last year to stave off the economic effects of the pandemic.

And before that, Republicans under former President Trump failed to reign in the federal deficit from Obama-era numbers despite talking for years about the dangers of the national debt.

The first two years Trump was fully responsible for federal spending, in fact, the deficit was larger than the final two years of former President Obama's time in office. This is leading some to question how serious Republicans are about fiscal responsibility.

President Biden delivers remarks about the Colonial Pipeline hack, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Washington. Biden has proposed historic spending increases early in his term. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

"It's a huge amount of spending at a time where we're not even able to pay for the spending that we already have on the books," Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas said about Biden's plans.

MacGuineas told Fox News it is to Biden's "credit" that he is proposing taxes to pay for that spending. But, she said, "How those numbers add up, they don't quite get there yet. They're still talking about paying for things over 15 years. … They're really going to have to go farther either finding more pay-fors or scaling back the size of the package."

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She added that Democrats' tax increases shouldn't be going toward financing new spending but to pay for the debt and deficit that the U.S. already has.

Republicans are panning the price tag of Biden's plans and throwing up roadblocks to them in Congress. Negotiations continue between Senate Republicans and the White House on a potential infrastructure bill.

The White House cut its offer from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion Friday, compared to Republicans' sub-$600 billion offer. Republicans did not find the new proposal encouraging, but talks are continuing.

"Last March, our economy was on the brink of ruin and required unprecedented investment to prevent a depression. Today, our economy is well on the way to recovery, and certainly not in need of the sweeping spending proposals put forth by the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress," a spokesperson for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told Fox News. "While Senator Toomey believes there is bipartisan consensus to be had on actual infrastructure, he strongly disagrees with the Democrats’ blowout spending packages that have already started to hamper our recovery in the form of worker shortages and inflation."

The spokesperson also said Toomey opposes "massive, fiscally irresponsible spending bills regardless of the president in power."

Last week, a group of House Republicans just released a budget that would institute massive cuts and spending reforms.

It’s time Republicans reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility

— -Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Jim Banks

"The Democrats are introducing socialism and radically expanding the role of government, and in just a short amount of time, we’re already seeing the negative effects of their agenda on our economy," Republican Study Committee Chair (RSC) Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said this week as the RSC introduced its proposed budget. The document would balance the budget within five years while lowering taxes, the RSC said.

"It’s time Republicans reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility and show voters an alternative vision for conservative governance," Banks added.

MacGuineas said RSC members "get big points maybe not for the seriousness of the budget but for the principle" of actually putting proposals on paper even if their budget isn't going to be enacted.

REPUBLICANS SEEK TO TOUGHEN ANTI-CHINA BILL, FOCUS SPENDING ON COUNTERING CCP AMID PRICE TAG CONCERNS

And Republicans last week also raised concerns about the Endless Frontier Act. The bill is in the Senate and aimed at countering China on technology and economic fronts, goals several Republicans told Fox News they find laudable.

But some are raising concerns that the price of the Endless Frontier Act is increasing too quickly and say it's still not tough enough against China.

"There are some really great things in the Endless Frontier Act, and the overall effort to compete with China is absolutely essential," one Senate Republican aide told Fox News, "but this bill contains items unrelated to that effort, and all together they’ve run up a pretty exorbitant price tag when we’re staring down a $28 trillion national debt. That’s giving some conservatives pause, even if they support the underlying premise of the bill."

"A lot of folks are in for a rude awakening" when they actually read the bill, one House GOP aide opposed to the Endless Frontier Act told Fox News.

"It's just insane, the price tag of the bill," that aide said. "It's astronomically high for the bill to do nothing."

Those comments were made when the bill was estimated to cost $130 billion. But after a round of amendments this week Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said it now costs $250 billion.

"At some point, we’re going to run out of digits," he said.

Despite concerns from some on the right, the Endless Frontier Act is expected to pass the Senate with significant Republican support. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a self-proclaimed "fiscal hawk," emphasized that countering China is a "worthy investment."

MacGuineas said Republicans are right that spending too much and adding to the national debt is a serious problem.

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"This is an urgent problem because one, we don't know when it will turn into an economic problem," she said. "Interest rates, inflation, currency, any of those issues. But most importantly it weakens every other vulnerability we have, whether it's in competition with China, whether it's to cyber or terrorist attacks, whether it's dealing with national emergencies or natural disasters, it leaves us vulnerable."

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., appears on Fox News. Banks chairs the Republican Study Committee which this week released a proposed budget that it says would get balance the federal budget in five years. (Fox News)

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., appears on Fox News. Banks chairs the Republican Study Committee which this week released a proposed budget that it says would get balance the federal budget in five years. (Fox News)

"The rhetoric is terrific. It's just really hard to take it seriously after the huge amount of reckless borrowing that they engaged in before the pandemic," MacGuineas added.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Ammar Moussa was more direct.

"Nothing speaks to Republicans’ hypocrisy more than their enthusiastic support for gifting corporations trillions of dollars and their unanimous opposition to getting everyday Americans the help they need," he said. "As President Biden and Democrats work to get our country back on track, Republicans have made clear they're only interested in protecting corporations and the wealthiest Americans."

Banks, however, faulted Democrats for constantly advocating for spending proposals that bloat the federal budget.

"While it’s true that both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to our national debt and deficit, Democrats always push for a higher topline on every domestic spending package and Republicans always argue for a lower one," he told Fox News. "With Democrats in charge of both chambers and the White House, we’ve seen how high those toplines can get. Inflation and cost of living are already skyrocketing — we need to turn this around before it’s too late."

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MacGuineas said Republicans and Democrats will have to make hard choices if the United States is to get its fiscal house in order. This includes spending cuts and tax increases, she told Fox News.

"The first thing we should do is stabilize our headed-towards-insolvency trust funds. most importantly, Social Security and Medicare," she said, suggesting a higher retirement age, means testing and more. MacGuineas also said the U.S. needs to cap discretionary spending and should repeal the 2017 tax cuts, get rid of tax breaks or potentially find new revenue streams through a value added tax or a carbon tax.

"The only thing I would say that people should not consider is the rigid belief that you can do this without touching taxes or without fixing our biggest programs, like Social Security, Medicare, because that's just a sign of a lack of realism," MacGuineas said.

She added: "When it comes down to it, the biggest test for all this is: Are you willing to do something hard?"

Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.

Tyler Olson Fox News